Saturday, May 10, 2014

My disdain for dislike

In a previous blog, I expressed my concerns regarding trolls, negativity in general, its effect on society and individuals. In some ways, this blog is a followup to that blog. This is my diatribe concerning the "dislike" button on Youtube. I'm probably being overly sensitive. But, social media sites seem to encourage and facilitate an urge to be judgemental of other individuals. I'm guessing that "reality" television is also contributing to this phenomenon. Through such programming we are being acclimated to a concept that people are here for our entertainment. It's almost like a learned sociopathy. It's easy for us to be detached viewing these individuals through our computers or televisions. Where previously, dramas and sitcoms were the norm for entertainment. At least with these types of shows, there was a realization that the characters that we were viewing were just that, fictional characters.

All of this brings me to the sociological ramifications of the "dislike" button in Youtube. It's quite possible that I'm being overly dramatic about this subject and blowing things way out of proportion. But, it seems to me that change is usually brought about through a slow progression. What once appeared to be a minute and harmless issue progressively becomes a much larger inherent global character flaw that is universally shared and embraced by society through slow acclimation. Groupthink comes into play. If everyone is doing it, it becomes socially and ethically acceptable. Sometimes this can be a good thing. They can bring about positive social change, such as in the case of women's rights or racial equality. Sometimes this can be a bad thing such as the increasing lack of respect shown for human life in general and the declining ability to empathize with other individuals. "They're not really like me. They were put here for the sake of my amusement. I'm what really matters." Once we egocentrically accept ourselves as the center of the universe, we begin see everything as if it was a video game or a program to entertain ourselves. There is an apathy and detachment that occurs. People getting hurt on a Youtube clip amuses us because it's not us. We've been conditioned to accept other people's suffering as our entertainment. The more we partake in these activities, the more we become acclimated to accepting this situation as the norm. I was a little shocked when I was on a trip to a paintball tournament with some much younger members of my team. They were commenting on the Kanye West and Taylor Swift incident that occurred on the 2009 MTV video awards. They viewed it as being very humorous with no regard for the feelings of the individuals involved. One of the teenagers said that he just liked that sort of humor. As if it was just a dramatization that was put on for his amusement. This really bothered me. Here was an otherwise normal kid that saw nothing negative or damaging about this incident. I'm guessing that if he was actually the recipient of the abuse he'd feel differently.
I almost find it ironic that I'm seeing an emphasis on anti-bullying campaigns. Is this a knee-jerk response to the increasing number of cases of bullying that we're seeing? From what I've seen these campaigns don't address the actual causes of bullying. They treat the symptoms after the act occurs. They're a bandage.
Now, getting back to the "dislike" button. The dislike button is not without it's merit. It can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. In terms of marketing research I can see some validity in having this option available. It can give immediate feedback to the youtube partner as to what their viewers like and dislike. It allows you to tailor future videos for your target audience. It can help the performer work on weak areas or choose to eliminate some things from their repertoire. This can be helpful for other videomakers to see what's popular and help them decide what topics to choose for their upcoming videos. It can also help persuade third parties to invest in and/or choose to advertise with those media contributors.
My problems with the "dislike" button is that I'm not sure that it's a valid indication of the number of people that actually like the content of the video. The demographic for Youtube is dominated by less than 18 and 18 to 24 age range. This age group might not be your target audience, but it might be the majority of views that it receives might fall between that age range. Probability is that you're not being judged by your target audience. Is this a good indication of the quality of your work? For instance, if you are a rap artist and you perform in front of an audience that is dominated by country fans. They are two totally different genres. Would the audiences critique of the performers' performance even be valid? Chances are very good that the vast majority of the audience will dislike the performance. Does this mean that the artist did not give a good and entertaining concert?

Another issue that I have with the "dislike" button is that individuals are more likely express their displeasure with something than if they liked it. How many of you that are reading this now have watched a video, liked a video and not clicked the "like" button? I would be willing to guess that's the majority of readers. When viewing a video, we expect to be entertained. When that doesn't happen, we are displeased and express ourselves. When we enjoy a video, unless that video stands out as being spectacular, we got what we expect and the video met the requirements. We do nothing. This is human nature. I do the same thing.
The other thing about the "dislike" button is that once the first "dislike" appears, it's almost as if someone gave the rest of the viewers permission to react. It has a domino or virus like chain reaction. I almost wish that Youtube required the person clicking the "dislike" button to give a detailed critique before being allowed to dislike the video. This would at least allow the contributor of the video to accept something constructive and determine whether it is a valid criticism or not. The only problem that see with this is that it open up new avenues for abuse and bullying. But, at least that would be traceable. That person could blocked and/or reported for abuse and their account would be shut down.
After reading all of this, I don't want to give the reader the impression that I'm completely pointing the finger outwards. I am just as guilty of these transgressions as anyone else. My hope is that this raises awareness to an often overlooked issue and starts a dialogue that leads to positive change.
In summary, I think the problem needs to addressed at the ground level. Parents need to educate themselves and be well versed in the latest technology. I know that this is extremely difficult, but an attempt must be made. There needs to be a much closer eye on children when they are using social media. I really like the idea of having a centralized computer in a family room that the children are only allowed to use with an adult present. Reinforce the concept that everything that they post online can be seen by billions of people. It is not a private conversation. The person that you are responding to is just that, a person with feelings the same as your own. To borrow from the world of role-playing games, it is not an AI(artificial intelligence) controlled NPC(Non Player Character). I know that we're all stressed out and I know that time in this current era is at an absolute premium, but take a second to click the "like" button. Post a nice comment. Create a positive environment. Maybe we can mute the shouts of a few negative naysayers with a cacophonous roar of positivity.
Ask yourself, "Would I like to be judged by the same standards that I judge others? Do I hold myself to those same standards?"

P.S. As a side note, I would like to mention one video where the amount of dislikes astounds me. This is the video "Never, Ever Give Up. Arthur's Inspirational Transformation!". As of the writing of this article, this video has 1296 dislikes Someone please explain to me how someone could dislike this video? Are we really that jaded as a culture?